8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’

shepherds-in-the-fieldsI do not know what it might have been like to be a shepherd in the days of Jesus’ birth.

I do know that, for the most part, shepherds were not well thought of in the ancient world.

There were rumours that, when shepherds were in the neighbourhood, things were in the habit of mysteriously disappearing. Their transient lifestyle following their flocks to new pastures, made it difficult for them to be religiously observant according to the customs of their people. Certainly, they were not wealthy, powerful, or prestigious. They did not keep company with the elites of their day.

Shepherds were not the sort of people to whom anyone would entrust “good news of great joy”. Shepherds were unlikely witnesses to bear testimony to world-altering events.

And yet, it is to shepherds that this “good news of great joy for all the people” was entrusted.

I wonder how often expectation and convention diminish my ability to perceive “good news of great joy.” How difficult it is for me to see “good news” when it does not come from a source I would normally consider credible. I wonder how many signs of Divine presence and action I miss because I am so locked in to my understanding of the way things ought to work.

Where do I expect to find “good news of great joy for all the people”?

What helps me listen beyond the accustomed parameters for the possibility of hearing “good news” from unexpected sources?